Crack the code

Challenge your little sleuth with one of these secret code ideas. 

You'll Need

  • Paper & pencil
  • Any picture on paper

Learning Stages

By Susan Dichter

Susan Dichter wears many hats—mother, writer, former teacher, museum director and librarian. Her books include Teachers: Straight Talk from the Trenches (Contemporary Books, 1990).

Ever notice how drawn kids are to secret codes? There are whole books devoted to codes and decoding, and the detective in your house can probably make up one on her own.

Before your child invents her own code—to be "cracked" by the whole family!—here are a few simple codes she will enjoy and that will encourage her to think.

Supermarket code

A supermarket list in which letter and number correspond. For example, to write the message STOP, the list might read: 5 kiwis; 1 turnip, 1 orange; 3 apples. Decode: The fifth letter in kiwis is S and so the first letter in the message is S, the first letter in turnip is T, and hence ST and so on.

Correspondence code

Print a photo or image on a piece of paper and then write a short message onto the other side. Then cut the picture/message into eight to ten pieces. Your child must put the puzzle together in order to read the coded message on its backside.

There are many other codes, including the Morse Code. Crack them all!

Recommended reading

Mensa for Kids: 75 Secret Codes
Chronicle Books (Age 8 and up)